Just as we start to pick up speed with the Twins, the prospect preview train comes grinding to a halt with a mediocre Orioles system. I think the horse from Ren and Stimpy said it best – no sir…I don’t like it. I skipped many a Sunday morning church service in favor of watching new episodes of R&S. I seem to be no worse for wear, except that when my kids ask me about their faith I usually dodge the question by offering to sell them some rubber nipples. With just two (questionable) Grade A prospects, this is the rubber nipple of minor league systems. I’m about to do my best to sell it.

Grade A

1. Yusniel Diaz, OF | Age: 22 | ETA: 2019
Diaz was arguably the best piece in the return for Manny Machado last year. He’s close to the majors which means he could have some redraft value. His floor is also relatively high after playing pro ball in Cuba and demonstrating average or better tools across the board. He’s not elite, but a guy who can hit .280 with 15/15 potential is useful in fantasy. He posted an outstanding 14% walk rate and 16% strikeout rate in 2018.

2. Ryan Mountcastle, 3B | Age: 21 | ETA: 2019
Like Diaz, Mountcastle is also likely to see the majors this season. He has a little more pop but a little less speed. His defense (particularly his arm) will probably result in a shift from third to another position further down the spectrum. He had some success with the bat in 2018 – hitting .297 with 13 homers for Double-A Bowie. If he gets to all of his raw power in games, he could see some 20-25 homer seasons, but that’s a decent-sized ‘if’ when we’re talking specs.


Grade B

3. Jean Carlos Encarnacion, 3B | Age: 20 | ETA: 2021
This is an aggressive ranking based mainly on Encarnacion’s projectability and upside. Detractors will be quick to point out his 27% strikeout rate in 2018, but I’m more focused on his balanced offensive tools and a plus arm that should keep him at the hot corner long term. He can hit and hit for power, and will even chip in a handful of steals. He came over from the Braves in the Kevin Gausman trade, and I’m betting he’s the Orioles’ long term answer at third.

4. Ryan McKenna, OF | Age: 21 | ETA: 2020
McKenna is your typical center field/leadoff hitter profile. He has plus speed and defensive tools and an above-average hit tool. His soft spot is power, but he did hit 11 dingers in 2018. I see an everyday player here with the potential to impact runs, steals, and batting average as a table setter. McKenna hit .315 across two levels last season with a pretty 12% walk rate.

5. DL Hall, LHP | Age: 20 | ETA: 2020
Hall sports a nice fastball/curveball combination that should lead to some strikeouts as a mid-rotation starter. He threw 94 innings for Delmarva in the Sally last year and struck out about ten per nine. I doubt he develops into a fantasy ace, but he has the most upside in this system outside of maybe Hunter Harvey – who’s too risky for my taste.

6. Austin Hays, OF | Age: 23 | ETA: 2019
Hays struggled with the bat in 2018, hitting just .242 in 273 at bats for Double-A Bowie. He did manage 12 homers and a half dozen steals though. The upside is limited offensively, but he’s an above-average defender which could help him carve out a role in the outfield. He’s likely waiver fodder in standard leagues with more value in deeper formats.

7. Grayson Rodriguez, RHP | Age: 19 | ETA: 2023
Rodriguez was selected in the first round of the 2018 draft. He’s more of a long-term project, but the fastball is already a plus pitch, and he pairs it with a slider that has plus potential. He demonstrated decent control in his pro debut and struck out a little over a batter per inning. My guess is he’ll appear somewhere in the back half of the 2019 first year player top 50. Like most high school arms, there’s a fair amount of risk built into the profile.


Grade C

8. Brett Cumberland, C | Age: 23 | ETA: 2019
Cumberland might get dinged on traditional lists for suspicious defense behind the plate, but he’s the offense-first catcher profile that actually plays well in fantasy leagues. He’s also close to the bigs and could see some late season redraft value in deeper formats. There’s zippo in the speed department, but there’s the potential for 15-20 homers with a decent average once (if) he becomes a primary backstop. He was another piece in the Gausman trade with Atlanta.

9. Jean Carmona, SS | Age: 19 | ETA: 2022
Another long-term project, Carmona struggled this past season – hitting just .234 across two levels with a 26% strikeout rate. Still, the switch-hitting shortstop projects as average or above-average in both power and speed, and he has the defensive chops to stick on the left side of the dirt. These are the types of players I like to target in deep dynasty leagues, especially if I sniff an opportunity to buy low.

10. Luis Ortiz, RHP | Age: 23 | ETA: 2019
Ortiz should be much higher on your list if you are in need of pitching for this year. He has already had a cup of coffee and is likely one of the first prospects to get the call if a spot opens up. He has a plus heater and slider, but lacks the strikeout stuff to rank higher for me. If everything clicks he can max out as a 3/4 starter, but more likely he’s a back-end rotation/relief arm.


2019 Index

  1. Ante Galic says:
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    Mike!!

    Great spec report despite this terrible system. So actually it’s an excellent report. Get it?

    a. Got your name right this time, how ’bout them apples!!

    b. Gonna call Yusniel Yusful as in he’ll be ‘useful’ for fantasy purposes but not much more if he gets to 400 ABs.

    c. Little-known factoid about Chad for December 19

    Mike, I’m hoping that there aren’t too many more of these spec reports because honestly I’ve pretty much exhausted everything there is to know about Chad that isn’t on wikipedia and that existing information was also really limited.

    Chad has had quite a long history of civil war. There wasn’t just one war but a series of many wars. At the beginning it was based on the divide between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south. The last civil war which was quelled in 2008 was led by a rebel group that was aligned with then-president and current president Idris Deby – in fact some were family members!!

    To this day in the offices of UNHCR, there has to be a roughly 50-50 hiring policy of Muslims and Christians otherwise things get dicey, reflecting the roughly 50-50 divide between Muslims and Christians in country. The local staff council (made up of strictly Chadian nationals working for UNHCR) kept this artificial policy in place for appointments to the council to maintain peace in the council itself! For what it’s worth, both Muslims and Christians tolerate each other on average, hate each other at worst and the reality is something in between.

    Christian women are allowed to marry Muslim men, but they must convert to Islam. Muslim men must do the same so you rarely have a conversion of a Muslim man to Christianity, that’s just the way it is.

    Fun fact: During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, there is a fast from dawn to dusk. Everyone knows that one. In Chad, they take it to an extreme! In Chad, Muslims are not allowed to swallow their own saliva (!!) during the same period from dawn to dusk!!

    Cheers,
    Ante

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      a. How bout em!
      b. ha
      c. I was talking to a guy who said West Africa is gonna be the next jam…China loaning ’em money and then collecting their natural resources.

      • Ante Galic says:
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        @Mike: Mike!

        Could see that easily happening. Matter of fact, I saw it in CAR (Central African Republic), Uganda, Zambia, Sudan, Chad. Almost every country I worked in Africa.

        1. Uganda – A Chinese guy I met on the flight from Kampala to Dubai told me an interesting story. (Get this all of you out there who think they can’t do anything effective after 55 and they are let off.) This year he turned 60 and started a new job he never did before. He came to Uganda for the first time in January 2018 and left when I did on June 25 (flight to Dubai refers). Basically, he takes the waste product from fish canneries (they gave it away gladly), got four locals to do the dirtiest job on earth in going through the waste to collect the fish maw from the waste product and then dried it and sent it by UPS to Hong Kong. He was paid into his account in Yunnan at 500 USD per pound of fish maw. He earned in the six months he was in Uganda 100000 USD. Worse still ending to this sad story, he left for China and will send 3 dummies to do his job at 10% of the price per month (they were grateful for the job) and he continues to work elsewhere around the world. That’s a franchise that will never end.

        2. Zambia – I met a Chinese guy who was a road engineer in China. Then he did some bad stuff and was sent to prison. His sentence was commuted to 5 years of hard labor in Zambia. Basically, he got a one-way ticket to Zambia, his embassy picked him up at the airport and took his passport and gave him an ID card that he could use in-country but not to leave the country. He worked as road engineer for 5 years, then came back to the airport, the embassy gave him back his passport, took back his ID and he continued serving the remaining term of his sentence in China. Fun fact: the Zambian government paid the Chinese government for this guy’s service in Zambia.

        2a. Zambia – Chinese stole 1000000 USD of copper from Congo’s Katanga province (I think it’s called Tanganyika province now), paid the Zambian customs officials 6 months of salary (so not much, like maybe 50$ each so 500$ maximum X 6=3000$), smuggled the copper into Zambia and then legally exported the copper to China! It was in 1999, but really it could have been yesterday.

        3. Sudan – in the 60s, the Italians built a dam for the Sudanese where the Blue Nile enters Sudan. The dam was about 10 feet high and forced about 50000 people who were downstream to move because of the flood water. The electricity generated from the dam provided 70% of Sudan’s power supply!! In 2009, the Chinese built a dam for the Sudanese in the same place that was 30 feet high! This forced like 250000 people to move elsewhere. No idea how much electricity is generated from the new dam.

        4. Chad – I mentioned previously about how the Chinese paid per pound on donkey hide and meat. Sad.

        5. CAR – In the CAR, they just buy everything even if it’s not worth anything. No real good examples.

        Cheers,
        Ante

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          Incredible

          • Ante Galic says:
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            @Mike: Mike!

            Most incredible has to be the price of fish maw in Hong Kong, right? Guy’s got operations in Uganda (Lake Victoria), Straight of Hormuz and like somewhere off the coast of Somalia if you can believe it.

            Cheers,
            Ante

            • Mike

              Mike says:
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              Indeed. I used to watch that show Bizarre Foods all the time and I remember them showing huge vats of that stuff. Like it must have been thousands and thousands of gallons of straight fish guts/juice.

  2. Phil C says:
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    Any thoughts on Dean Kremer?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Stayed consistent in Double-A…I really like the strikeout potential if he sticks as a starter.

  3. Matty says:
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    I assume Chance Sisco is just above the PA threshold- any latent value there, or will he be the bust he appeared to be?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Yup, surpassed the limit last season. I think the hole in his swing is just too big. I wouldn’t expect much.

  4. Gonzo_The_Great says:
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    Oooo some minor leaguers I actually saw this year — Diaz had some nice pop when I saw him play and looked competent in the field. I thought he was a pretty great return for a rental (even if that renal was Machado). And, the Orioles roster is so bad I would guess he plays unless he’s putrid, right? O’s strike me as a team that’s got to just float along until they can get out from under the Davis contract.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Nice! Good info. Agreed…they’re in like a weird purgatory.

  5. Thorbs says:
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    Good stuff, Mike!

    What are your thoughts on the Mountcastle – Castellanos comp that I’ve seen thrown around a bit? Too optimistic?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      It’s not totally crazy, but he’s probably more likely to be ’15,’16 Casty than ’17,’18 Casty.

  6. AllThePrettyStantons says:
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    Hey Mike,

    I’m looking to add a top 100 pitcher in my deep dynasty league, and some of the options that became available are Gibson, Dereck Rodriguez, and Matz. Do you like any of those guys straight up for Nick Williams, Jake Bauers, or Yordan Alvarez? Those are the 3 guys I’m possibly willing to part w/ who are also getting attention from other owners.

    If you don’t like either of those 3 pitchers, who would be some pitchers out there I could target? I could use some pitching help in 2019. Any thoughts/ideas are always welcome.
    Thanks as always

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      I’d do Williams for either Gibson or Matz.

      • AllThePrettyStantons says:
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        @Mike:

        Thanks. Is Bauers or Alvarez a little to steep for Gibson?

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          No problem. Yeah I think so. I like Steamer’s projection for Bauers and if I’m reading your league right you can keep Alvarez stashed in your minors. Williams is kinda stuck in the middle but his projection isn’t so hot.

  7. Sean says:
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    Yusniel can’t steal bases. Look at the success rate. It’s not going to get better against major league catchers.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Fair enough. Might cap the ceiling at 8-12.

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